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Will iPads in the classroom make the grade for students and teachers?

Tom Kaneshige | Feb. 14, 2014
Santa Barbara Unified School District is rolling out 1,200 iPads to three elementary schools and an alternative high school. Los Angeles Unified School District plans to put iPads in the hands of all 640,000 students. The goal is to improve learning through interactivity. First, school districts need to mitigate costs and get teachers on board.

Last month, AirWatch unveiled Teacher Tools that gives teachers some control over student iPads, such as the capability to give exams in single app mode, send documents out to the class, and turn off the camera and disable screen shots so students can't pass tests to their friends.

However, many obstacles still remain on the road to iPads in high schools. The Los Angeles Unified School District, for instance, has run into security problems with students taking MDM profiles off of iPads. There are also rumors of iPads being broken and stolen, and closets full of iPads collecting dust while waiting to be distributed.

But the biggest barriers continue to be cost — who's going to pay for all these iPads? — and especially teachers refusing to embrace iPads. The iPad represents a paradigm shift in the classroom, Ryckman says, and that's uncomfortable for teachers who like to have complete control of their environment.

iPad Payment Plans
In order to overcome cost, or at least mitigate it, Santa Barbara Unified School District came out with two plans to put iPads in students' hands. In the first plan, students and their parents can opt to have an iPad handed to them, which they'll have to return at the end of the school year. They'll be on the hook for lost, stolen or broken iPads (although this might change as the plan evolves).

The second is a pay-to-own plan, in which the parents must pay the school a little bit every month en route to owning the iPad after three years. They're also on the hook for lost, stolen or broken iPads and don't own the iPad outright until the final payment. The school district, of course, also doesn't profit from this plan.

Both plans allow students to take iPads home, and parents are responsible for watching over them. If a student takes off the AirWatch profile, as students at Los Angeles Unified School District did, or violates any of the acceptable use policies, then the student will be penalized by not being allowed on the network.

Interestingly, the second plan is helping to close the digital divide. Ryckman says lower socio-economic schools began seeing high rates, in the 80 percent range, of parents wanting to participate in the pay-to-own plan, while the more affluent schools tended toward the first plan that puts the cost burden squarely on the school district.

"Parents who don't have $600 to plunk down at an Apple Store saw the pay-to-own plan as a way to provide this technology to their kids," Ryckman says. "Apple said that this would happen, but our board was still really surprised."


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